Kafka’s Profound Influence
Yishu Wang is one of the top photojournalists in China, who has decided to turn his career upside down and start photographing fashion. Yishu lived in different cities in China while growing up and visited many others during his travels searching for the new story. He studied Chinese Literature in the Northwest Normal University, and today Yishu is based in Shanghai. He has a sharp eye to catch the moment in time that is never an end or a beginning, making his works an ultimate storytelling experience. This sense of continuity builds up the later frames in the mind of the viewer who imagines what might happen next.
The hardships of working on fashion stories, the connection literature has with photography, the art scene in China are topics we raise. Yishu’s passion is realism, but the fascination with the world and natural elements extends it and reaches out to illusion and dreams.
Hi Yishu, tell about your hometown Jinzhou. What is the most exquisite memory from growing up there?
My parents are from Jinzhou, a city located in the Northeast of China, but I was born in Gansu Province in Northwest China. I went to the southern cities of China after graduating from university, but now I live not far from Shanghai. So, I'm a little confused about the concept of hometown.
As a photojournalist, what was the most important factor for you to capture, human emotions, aspects of routine, hardships, etc.?
Yes, as a former photojournalist. I have filmed all this, as well as disasters, deaths, and I have seen a thousand corpses. I did this job because I could go to a lot of places and meet a lot of different people.
How does it differ to shoot fashion in comparison to real life moments, for example, the story ‘With Fast Radio Burst’ or ‘The Untitled Film’?
What I like is good photos, good photography, whether it is fashion or daily life. But taking fashion photos requires working with a team, in which personal feelings can be interfered with and disrupted. Untitled Film is my favorite series. I like the contrast between the real and illusory feeling.
"Fire is one of the things that fascinates me, probably because it's easy to fade and change, and I'm also interested in clouds, winds, animals, human faces, and everything that's confusing and real.".
"My photos are rarely post-processed, and I always evaluate everything with the naked eye first".
You have studied Chinese literature at Northwest Normal University. Name some of your favorite authors and what makes their writing unique for you?
I like Kafka, his novels have a profound impact on my photography. In fact, when I was in college, I gained a deeper understanding of literature through photography. Literature, contrarily, is not so helpful to photography.
How would you describe the photography scene today in China, what are the elements that stand out when compared to the Western artists?
China is a country that is never boring. It has been changing dramatically, so people feel tired, but it is very interesting to live here.
You’ve got several photos in which the focal point is fire. Tell about what you love about this natural element and what was set on fire in this photo?
Fire is one of the things that fascinates me, probably because it's easy to fade and change, and I'm also interested in clouds, winds, animals, human faces, and everything that's confusing and real. These are things that have been around for a long time, and more importantly, their relationship with me, and I'm watching them right now.
What are some of the tips you can share to direct models during the shoot to get a specific expression you are looking for?
I like realism, so I often ask models not to make fashion postures, but it's not always easy to get there.
Nature in your works is portrayed as distant, somewhat mystique, forceful and slightly lonely. What do you enjoy the most while photographing nature and which feeling you are trying to convey through the works?
Sometimes things show unreal illusions, and sometimes I don't know where I am, and I can't explain it. It is true that most real life is boring, art can strengthen the sense of dreams.
You work a lot with natural light and at times with flash that creates a dramatic effect and brings a viewer back to reality. How do you usually work on the post-production of the photos?
Yes, this is the reason why a good photo is always something special, sometimes it's content, sometimes a sense of form. In fact, my photos are rarely post-processed, and I always evaluate everything with the naked eye first.
What will you be focusing on this year and what can we expect next from you?
I will accept the invitation to work in fashion, and the rest of the time will be reserved for my own creation. I'll be more relaxed when I shoot my own work.